Thought LeadershipI got an e-mail recently from a colleague in which he expressed his displeasure with a business partner who was very late in paying him. What was particularly troubling to him was the fact that the partner’s business was based on selling integrity.

The e-mail was entitled “Hypocrisy.”

Many organizations are now making claims of how socially responsible they are. They print glossy sustainability reports and tout how socially conscious they are in their advertising and on their websites.

Yet these very same organizations –

• Delay paying their vendors for 60, 90 or even 120 days, forcing their business partners to carry costs that the organization should be paying

• Expropriate the intellectual property of others for their own business improvement initiatives

• Transfer costs they should be paying to their workers (e.g. through their cost reimbursement policies or the systematic denial of legitimate workers compensation claims)

There is a great deal of discussion and focus today on ways to create a positive culture within an organization. This may be difficult to achieve in an organization when greed, theft and transfer of risk are the behaviors that are admired and rewarded.

Related Resources:

There are a number of blog posts and articles on the internet that explore the question of whether social responsibility claims are only “hypocritical window dressing.”  An interesting one is an article published in September 2014 in the International Journal of Arts and Commerce entitled “Is Corporate Social Responsibilities Hypocritical?” This article reports on the results of a public perception survey conducted in Malaysia. The conclusion reached was that more than half of the CSR activities were considered hypocritical and the true agenda behind many CSR efforts was the receipt of tax incentives. Interestingly, the article also states that a limitation to the surrey was that the survey respondents were provided balanced information rather than only the CSR information provided by the company.

If you are interested in ethical issues associated with sustainability reporting, click here to download an article I co-authored with Jacob Cremer in 2013 – Ethics for Environmental and Sustainability Reporting.